Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stop Calling Yourself a Social Media Expert

I've been reading up on a lot of marketing companies here in India and I keep hearing the same buzzwords but no substance. I'm not seeing goals for success shared, achieved results documented, just the individual pieces of "cool stuff". If I see "social media optimization" again or "meme mashup" or "blogosphere", I swear I'm gonna hurl. I don't really blame the marketing companies; the clients don't understand the potential, so educating clients becomes critical. That means only early adopters are ready to try this now. That also means that a lot of Indian marketing companies don't have a real track record yet.

Social media marketing is a science AND an art. The science is very similar to all the rest of the marketing mix - check the demographics, craft the message and make the call to action. The art comes in when figuring out what to do within the social media construct... are we talking a Facebook application? A Facebook Fan Page? A Twitter? A Youtube channel? All of these sites are called social media, but they may not be where your audience is, it may not be the appropriate construct for your message, you may not be able to craft the kind of message the particular site requires to make it go viral. Everyone also seems to forget that it adds a minimum of one additional click-through where distractions can certainly occur, especially on social media sites.

Cultural issues are another side of this that no one is paying attention to. I would never in a million years go after work in the U.K. assuming I personally know enough to make the social media campaign for a culture not my own, even if we do share a "similar" language. What works in American social media could bomb in the U.K. What works in the U.K. probably won't work here. The good news is that there are two reasons, regardless of culture, that people click through and engage (another social media buzzword): curiosity and controversy. Most clients refuse to do controversy, but the risk is well worth the effort. Marketing companies can come up with the ideas that match the human emotions that the client wants to produce within their target audience.

No one ever mentions testing their social media plans, although all other web-based functionality is typically tested. Have you shown the idea to your target group? Do they ask if they can show it to a friend? Are they excited about it? Do they want more? Are you enabling them enough options to send it on through multiple channels?

How do you establish the parameters for success? Before you hire a company to handle your marketing mix that includes social media be sure they can provide measurement for success. Social media is a small part of your overall marketing today and shouldn't be considered the panacea it's made out to be, especially here in India. At least not yet.


  1. Excellent post, I like the idea of separating "Social Media Marketing" into "Social Media" and "Marketing". It makes a lot of sense.

  2. Very well put. I lived out in Mumbai for the past 7 months, just got back to the US about a month ago and now in Vegas - culture shock really. It seems there's always so call "experts" in this field with little substance as you've put it here when in all reality there's few and the one I know ever boast on it.

    Hope you journey in Dehli is great, the people out there are really kind, it might look like everyone's looking at you but don't worry; They are =o).

  3. What works in Delhi or the definitely won't work here in the UK. I agree: you cannot engage in a social network unless you are also immersed in (native to?) the culture in which you're marketing. Tweets in the UK have a very different feel to tweets in the US and serve as a microcosm demonstration of why we're two different cultures divided by a common language

  4. It's really interesting to hear from a social media person from outside of the UK and US. I agree with you the buzz words are being thrown around far too often but the truth is to make social media work for you and your market it has to be completely tailored. This means that every campaign you create or manage is usually bespoke. As this specialism moves from its infancy into maturity we will no doubt start to see the really good users of social media.

  5. Good Post,it makes my head spin when I see who is calling themselves "Social Media Experts"

    You post goes back to my main premise in marketing....KNOW YOUR TARGET MARKET....are they even using Social Media in mass?

    Measuring results is important, they quantify success.

    Thanks for giving it some thought.